Sacred Music Sunday: (Give Me That) Old Time Religion

When I joined the church in 1994, it was in many ways a very different church than I find myself in now. We talked about how the Book of Mormon was written for our day and was a warning to us against pride. We prepared for the second coming of Jesus, under the assumption that even if He isn’t coming imminently, we’ll still all meet Him when we die, so we should be prepared. The temple was preached about as a place where we can offer the saving ordinance of baptism to all who have lived. We prepared to meet God as individuals, and it was our personal relationship with Jesus that would bring us into the presence of God. The purpose of church was to perfect the saints, preach the gospel, and redeem the dead. Sacrament meeting talks were based on the scriptures.

I haven’t heard much lately about the warnings for our day found in the Book of Mormon. The return of Jesus has fallen out of vogue, and the temple is now about reinforcing the 1950s white American middle-class nuclear family, and woe be unto anyone who doesn’t fit that mold. Individuals don’t seem to matter anymore; the church is for married people. I hear more about The Family ™ than I do about Jesus some weeks. Sacrament meeting talks are based on general conference talks. I think we’ve created an idol.

I teach primary, and I make sure to center every lesson on Jesus. It’s easy this year because we’re doing the New Testament, but even when we study other material, I still bring Him with me to church. He’s why we’re there.

We need to get back to basics. Faith, repentance, baptism, following the promptings of the Holy Spirit, loving our neighbors, feeding the hungry and clothing the naked, preparing to meet God, sharing the good news that Jesus saves us from our sins. That will go a lot further in showing the world that we’re Christians than an expensive re-branding campaign will.

I love the song Give Me That Old Time Religion because it captures so well this back to basics longing that I feel. “Give me that old time religion; it’s good enough for me.” “It teaches me to love everybody.” “It will bring me back to heaven.”


Trudy is a lawyer living in the southwestern US. She has two cats who allow her to live in their house in exchange for a steady supply of food and treats.

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10 Responses

  1. It has been interesting going through the New Testament this year and seeing what Jesus actually spent his time talking about. He spent more time talking about helping the poor than family, scripture study, going to church, temple and tithing combined. Yet we spend more time on each one of those topics individually than helping the poor. I think it is easy to focus so much on the peripherals that we miss the mark. I appreciate your insight and your focus on the basics.

  2. anon says:

    Helping the poor . . . . how is it that we have hundreds (thousands?) of children separated from parents in detention facilities who are sleeping on concrete under bright lights, and who don’t have enough to eat or even soap and toothbrushes? (It seems to be the “Christian” right who supports this president and these horrendous policies the most.)

    This, plus the terror threats of immigration raids. I’m so discouraged today.

  3. Anon says:

    I agree with you completely. Relief socitety and sacrament meetings rehash and regurgitate conference talks all year long. I hate it.

  4. M says:

    Yes yes yes. There’s a lot of talk about “the covenant path” these days, but other than baptism, I’m not finding these covenants leading to Jesus.

  5. Liz Barlow says:

    I teach youth Sunday School, and it’s amazing how little the youth actually know about Jesus and the teachings of the Old Testament. I’ve started making Jesus the nucleus of every lesson, which has made me realize the same thing! The teachings of Jesus are harder (giving to the poor, forgiveness, welcoming those different than you) than thinking about how long your shorts should be or whether or not you should hike on Sunday.

  6. Christine Balderas says:

    I am re-reading a wonderful book about the 3 years of Christ’s ministry and the cultural significance at the time. “ Whom Say Ye That I Am – Lessons from the Jesus of Nazareth”, by James and Judy McConkie. Along with the NT reading, I am learning more about Jesus then I ever have. I have become a Jesus addict. They had an entire section in the book about Jesus and the family. In a very condensed summary from the book, he taught that we are part of the human family and our works and love should be focused on all of God’s family, which is our family. Jesus changed the cultural emphasis from immediate family to the human family. They talk about the paradox in the church regarding eternal marriage and Jesus’ statement that there will be no marriage in Heaven. I would recommend this book by faithful members of the church, written in a scholarly way.

  7. Charlene says:

    I love Jesus. I don’t find him so much in this church that is supposed to be His. I see many of the same things you see, Trudy, and is precisely what Christ saw in His day. Matthew 15: 8-9 “This people draweth nigh unto me with their mouth, and honoureth me with their lips; but their heart is far from me. But in vain they do worship me, teaching for doctrines the commandments of men.” It is more than unfortunate. I wish there was an easy remedy, but for now, we have to supplement at home what is lacking in church.

  8. Autumn says:

    “I hear more about The Family™ than I do about Jesus some weeks.” I’ve noticed this lately, too, and I find myself wondering, “Is this the Church of Jesus Christ or the Church of the 1950s Nuclear Family?” I’m glad the Come Follow Me program is focusing on the New Testament this year because it’s my favourite book of scripture and I have loved re-reading about the life and teachings of Christ.

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